Global Health in 2017: New Year, New Narrative

This blog was written by Loyce Pace, MPH, President & Executive Director of Global Health Council

Over the past several weeks since I’ve joined Global Health Council (GHC), I’ve had a number of conversations with our members and partners. Many of those discussions centered around one key question: “What’s next for global health?” It seems we are at an inflection point as a community, one at which we recognize a greater need for attention and resources alongside the growing demand for efficiencies and impact. Our challenge doesn’t change; in fact, it is threefold:

  • Finish the fight for priorities that have tangible endpoints on the horizon
  • Tackle head-on neglected problems that threaten to undermine progress we’ve made
  • Know what we don’t know, and plan accordingly

This challenge is purposely broad so that it reflects the various interests and objectives of our diverse membership. That way, we can speak with one voice about the road ahead for global health and what should be done to ensure we succeed. I heard from many of you how much you value coming together and the ability of GHC to build consensus across a seemingly-endless number of priorities and stakeholders. I was encouraged by how much people talked about the importance of community and holding the line in uncertain times. So, this is my plea: Let’s commit this year to working together and focusing on our common ground. I know we won’t agree on everything, but we are aligned in more ways than we often admit. It is much easier to focus on our differences. However, tempting as it might be to stay true to our usual silos, elevating the sector as a whole will yield dividends in the long-term. To be sure, specific messages and targets are a good thing and have a place in advocacy, but such issues will have little value without the foundation of a strong global health constituency – a group of us committed to and driven by the same end goal.

What is that goal? We have a global 2030 agenda that calls for equitable health and wellness worldwide. And, yes, that is what we ultimately hope to achieve. But what about today? What message do we need to drive home and what outcomes do we want as a result? For now, it is less about the “what” or even “how” and more a matter of “why.” Why is improving global health so important? Why do we try to address it the way we do? Why should anyone else care? These are fundamental questions we must answer not only for ourselves but particularly for those unfamiliar with our incredible history and success. Global health works. Period. It works for individuals and countries. It works for organizations and corporations. It works for societies and economies. These are the messages we should translate early and often this year. It’s a basic but critical mantra that reflects both our passion and purpose. It sets the tone for a new narrative in global health, one that inspires us to continue working for the benefit of those we serve, and motivates others to join us in our efforts. That way, we all win.